Over the next couple of days we saw the temples complete with some interesting carvings and I managed to get my hair cut. This time it was by a barber who told me he had 19 years experience. This seemed pretty true since he actually did a good job using only scissors and a comb. He finished off giving me a cut throat shave (with a brand new blade) and a head and shoulder massage, All this for about 3 quid!
We were delaying leaving because we knew we had a couple of long days ahead. Fortunately we didn’t know the half of it.
We dragged ourselves out of bed early to head towards Varanasi. I looked up on the internet and found the last hotels on the road were in a town called Rewa. National Highway 75 started out good, with fresh tarmac winding its way up through the hills of the Panna nature reserve. We were finding ourselves dodging monkeys in the road and passing deer and antelope.
The road soon disintegrated. Some parts were smooth with random potholes trying to take us by surprise (and occasionally succeeding). In towns it tended to deteriorate further into rocky gravel with little sign it was ever tarmac apart from the obligatory well preserved speed ramps. The bikes were taking a pounding and I wondered how the rear shocks would hold up. A few towns along the way had deep potholes filled with murky water. There was no way to tell how deep it was or any way round it so through them we went, hoping for the best. It took a good 5 hours to complete the 200km journey.
We stopped at the first hotel we came to. It looked nice though the water was only lukewarm and the room was freezing with mosquitoes thrown in for good measure. just the sort of motivation you need to get going first thing in the morning. They did however let us park the bikes in the basement which had been converted into a banquet hall complete with a carpeted floor. We still found the switches had been fiddled with overnight and mirrors adjusted. The ride up the carpeted ramp in the morning was challenging and reminded me of Saveh in Iran, only without the bashing of stuff at the top.
The crap roads continued all the way to Mirzapur, despite being a main road as marked on the map. We competed for space with lorries swerving into our oncoming path to avoid potholes on their side. The 200km journey took us a full bone shattering 7 hours. Anywhere we stopped people came from nowhere to simply stand and stare at us. It was impossible to get a reaction or conversation with anyone apart from the only occasional “how much it cost“. India was really becoming invasive and getting under our skin.
To avoid riding through the middle of varanasi we took a minor road out of Mirzapur and cut up to the motorway. The minor road was a little better condition than the main road had been and the motorway had a blissfully smooth surface but with the usual impatient small car drivers causing mayhem everywhere.
I had gps co-ordinates for a hotel but we found one road blocked with roadworks. We took another branch road and got back to the road we had wanted. As we followed the road we came to an army camp that the road went straight through. Locals were riding through the gates on small bikes so we approached. I asked the guard about the road but he unhelpfully waved his red stick in a circular motion indicating we should turn around and just go away. I was trying to ask for alternative directions and taking my helmet off when he turned and walked away. Frustrated tired and hot we simply drove straight up to the gates playing the dumb tourist card and flanked by several small bikes. The guards had no time to react at we rode straight through and into the camp. The road continued on through the camp and out the other side where we exited through a pedestrian gate along with the local small bikes. Finding the hotel from there was a breeze.